Of snakes and cattle: The dialectics of group esteem between Suri and Dizi in Southwest Ethiopia

TitleOf snakes and cattle: The dialectics of group esteem between Suri and Dizi in Southwest Ethiopia
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsG.J. Abbink
EditorI. Strecker, and J. Lydall
Secondary TitleEthiopian images of self and other. Essays on cultural contact, respect and self-esteem in Southern Ethiopia
Pagination227 - 245
Date Published2006///
PublisherLit Verlag
Place PublishedMünster
Publication Languageeng
KeywordsDizi, Ethiopia, ethnic relations, identity, images, Suri

In the Maji region of southern Ethiopia, a process of competition and rivalry is going on, fuelled by economic scarcity, State interference, influx of new arms, and the impact of globalizing conflicts. This causes a redefinition and even subversion of group contacts in the region. This chapter discusses shifting perceptions and evaluations of two 'ethnic' groups in southern Ethiopia vis-à-vis each other - communities that have age-old relations of cooperation and symbiosis, but also tension. The author examines whether these groups, the Suri agropastoralists and the Dizi sedentary agriculturalists, have cultural ideals of esteem, pride, and honour as actualized in interpersonal and intergroup relations. He shows that in the past, the relationship between the Dizi and the Suri was one of mutual tolerance and esteem, based on a 'division of labour', a territorial spread and economic specialization. However, in the past decade perceptions of each other's culture and identity have been transformed into disdain and enmity. Negative stereotyping of the Other has increased, generated by growing violent conflict and insecurity. The Dizi tend to see the Suri as 'snakes', unreliable animals attacking when no one expects it and speaking in double tongues, while the Suri regard the Dizi as 'cattle', docile, passive, waiting for orders from the master.The author suggests that the crisis affecting the contact between Suri and Diz may be overcome by 'ritual rapprochement' and through the examples of individuals, notably leaders. Bibliogr., notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]

Citation Key1898